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Family Films

Here are the latest Let’s Go With The Children film reviews you can see on the big screen and via streaming or download sites.

The below film guides are written by Mike Davies for Let’s Go with the Children especially with families and kids in mind. Everything from small-scale films to great blockbusters for all the family! Please note that not all 12A films are appropriate for younger children. Let’s Go With The Children offers a guide to what’s suitable for family viewing.


 

Available now

characters in the Eternals Eternals (12A)

In the Marvel Universe, the Eternals are humanoid cosmic heroes from the planet Olympia assigned by the all-powerful Celestials to watch over – but not interfere with events on – Earth, that is, unless it’s to stop their arch enemy, the Deviants, grotesque almost lizard-like monsters with swirling tendrils and a taste for human flesh.
They’re first introduced in Mesopotamia in 5020 B.C. where they save a village from a Deviants attack, introducing us to self-healing Eternals leader Ajax (Selma Hayek), empath Sersi (Gemma Chan) who can manipulate inanimate matter, forever teenage Sprite (Lia McHugh) who can project illusions, warrior woman Thena (Angelina Jolie) with her gold shield and spear, deaf speedster Makkari (Lauren Ridloff), Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) who can conjure inventions with his hands, mind-manipulator Druig (Barry Keoghan), Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) who projects energy bolts, Gilgamesh (Don Lee), the strongest of them all, and Ikaris (Richard Madden) who can fly and shoots laser beams from his eyes a la Superman. As the names suggest, their presence on Earth over the centuries (and flashbacks include Hiroshima bombing and the 1520Tenochtitlan massacre) has inspired myths and legends, such as the Greek gods.
In present day London, Sprite, Sersi, who’s working as a museum curator and her mortal (?) boyfriend Dane Whitman (Kit Harrington) are attacked by a Deviant, Kro (voiced by Bill Skarsgaard), a shock since they thought they’d killed them all centuries ago. Even more of a shock is that this one is stronger and can heal itself, the trio saved when Ikaris (whom we learn married Sersi but then took off when it seemed their mission was complete) turns up. Now, realising the Deviants are back, they set out to reunite the other Eternals to once more protect the human race.
Naturally, there’s much more to things than first appear, Ajak and, one of the others, keeping secret the real mission she’s been charged with by the Prime Celestial Arishem (who created the universe, life on Earth and both Eternals and Deviants), which will entail the birth of a new Celestial and along with it the destruction of everyone on Earth. This causes a schism in the ranks because Sersi has developed a great love for the planet and its people, seeing their potential despite their flaws, while others are dedicated to carrying out Arishem’s will.
Overstuffed with plot and characters (though some don’t make it to the Uni-Mind meld), it’s a dramatic change of pace from director Chloé Zhao’s Oscar-winning Nomadland, and you can’t help but feel her interest is more in the character dynamics, existential crises and betrayals, than the big action sequences, the balance proving somewhat uneven. There’s also some clunky dialogue and an ill-fitting comedic element with Kingo becoming a Bollywood superstar and, when he rejoins his colleagues, being followed by his valet (Harish Patel) who’s filming a documentary of their exploits.
Inevitably, several characters get sidelined for large stretches, the focus primarily being on Sersi and Ikaris who, as he tells Kingo, is not the hero they think he is.
Even so, in terms of the ideas it addresses, it’s the most ambitious Marvel film to date and Zhao brings an emotional dimension that, ultimately, makes it worth the experience, not forgetting to hang around for the mid-credits scenes that introduce Harry Styles as another hitherto unseen Marvel character and Dane’s secret setting up both a sequel and at least one new spin-off.
156 mins
In cinemas


car and kids in Ghostbuster filmGhostbusters: Afterlife (12A)

Released to massive success in 1984 and spawning one sequel and assorted animated TV spin-offs, a 2016 attempt at a revival with all-female ghostbusters misfired, but this, directed by Jason Reitman, the son of original director Ivan, pitched as Goonies meet Ghostbusters is a far more successful and enjoyable affair.
Evicted from their home, Callie (Carrie Coon) has no alternative but to take her two kids, fifteen-year-old Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and his science-mad younger sister Phoebe (a stand-out Mckenna Grace) and move into the dilapidated remote rural Oklahoma mansion in Summerville where her long-estranged father recently died. Unlike her, a turmoil of resentment sparked by old memories, the kids adjust quickly, Trevor getting a job at the local diner where he has a crush on fellow worker Lucky (Celeste O’Connor) and Phoebe enrolling in summer school, taught by amateur seismologist Gary Grooberson (an amusing Paul Rudd), whose lessons consist of getting the kids to watch horror movies, where she buddies up with a fellow science nerd who, armed with a camcorder, for obvious reasons calls himself Podcast (Logan Kim).
There, is, however, something strange going on at the long-abandoned mine (shades of Spielberg’s Devil Tower) over which hovers an ominous black cloud, part of the operations originally run by Gozerian cultist Ivo Shandor (JK Simmons) who has put in place plans for his resurrection, while, led by an unseen force, Phoebe finds a hidden ghost trap in the basement and accidentally releases Muncher, a metal-eating ghost, subsequently leading to her learning her late grandfather was Egon Spengler, one of the original Ghostbusters who saved New York City from the demonic Gozer back in the 80s before abandoning his family and fellow spook chasers, taking off with all the gear and their signature Ectomobile.
She also finds his hidden lair and equipment, repairing Egon’s proton pack and setting out to recapture Muncher, she, Podcast and Trevor ending up in jail, where Lucky’s dad (Bokeem Woodbine) is sheriff, for destroying property in the chase. So, who’s she going to call? Well, former Ghostbuster Ray Stantz (co-writer Dan Ackroyd) who duly arrives to explain how Egon believed there was an apocalypse coming, thereby setting the third act into play wherein Carrie and Gary (who’s now dating her) are transformed into Gozer’s demonic servants,Vinz Clortho and Zuul the Gatekeeper, and the kids, now joined by Lucky and wearing the trademark uniforms, with a timely appearance by the other two originals, Bill Murray and Ernie Wright (plus a touching technologically rendered cameo that explains the film title), set about saving the world.
Gradually building the suspense, it takes almost an hour before the first real ghost action erupts, which, alongside the high octane confrontations also welcomes the return of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, albeit smaller, more of them and with an endearing Gremlins-like gooey self-destructive streak. It ends on a sentimental note of reconciliation, but stay for the credits and you also get Sigourney Weaver joining Murray for another cameo as Dana Barrett plus a reveal as to Winston’s new Ghostbusters business and a final hint at another sequel. Scare it up.
124 minutes

In cinemas


cartoon robin and mice dancing on garden fence in Robin Robin cartoon

Robin, Robin (U)

A stop-motion festive short from Aardman Animation with puppets and the models made from fuzzy felt, the story is simple. The egg falling from the nest, a baby robin (Bronte Carmichael) hatches and is taken in by a family of mice who raise her as one of their own, teaching her how to sneak into who-man homes and pinch crumbs. Unable to fly and not good at sneaking without making a noise, after the latest food foray ends in disaster, Robin decides to make up for it by going on a solo mission to the last house they’ve not been kicked out of and stealing an entire sandwich, during which she encounters a magpie (Richard E. Grant) who likes collecting shiny things and, believing the start on top of the Christmas tree will make their wishes come true, sets out to steal it. Unfortunately, she, magpie and the mice find themselves in danger from a fearsome feline (Gillian Anderson) who they must somehow send packing if they are to live – and sneak-in safety.
Complete with songs, although more spoken than sung, it comes with a message about family, finding the courage to be yourself rather than trying to fit in (Robin puffs up her feathers to look like mouse ears) and seems certain to become a seasonal favourite alongside The Snowman and The Gruffalo.
30 minutes

Netflix


boy playing santa claus wiht mouse on shoulder in A Boy called Christmas film

A Boy Called Christmas (PG)

Adapted from Matt Haig’s novel and directed by Gil Kenan, this is another version of the origin of Father Christmas, the story told to three understandably down youngsters whose mother has recently died by their dad’s (Joel Fry) great aunt Ruth (Maggie Smith) who arrives, Mary Poppins-like, at the undecorated home to babysit while he has to pop out for work on Christmas Eve. Interrupted by the children, mostly the youngest, who want to know if things end happily, as it unfolds, she tells of a Finnish boy named Nikolas (Henry Lawfull looking like a young Ed Sheeran) who, nickamed Christmas by his late mother (killed by a bear), lives with his widowed woodcutter dad (Michael Huisman) out in the snowy woods along with Miika, a mouse he’s adopted and is trying to teach to speak.
One day, the depressed king (Jim Broadbent) summons his subjects and declares he wants them to embark on a quest to bring back that which the impoverished kingdom is missing – hope. And so Nikolas’s dad and some of the neighbours, including the hunter who saved them from a bear, set off to find Elfhelm, the mythical land of the elves, where happiness abounds, leaving him the care of his aunt (Kristen Wiig), who swiftly reveals herself to be the story’s version of the wicked stepmother, making Nikolas sleep outside and cruelly boiling up the turnip doll his mother made him for soup.
However, finding a map hidden inside his dad’s red hat with its white bobble, charting the way to Elfhelm, which he believes his mother actually found, he and Miika sneak away to follow his father. After a long journey, in which he’s befriended by a wounded reindeer that he names Blitzen and discovers Miika (Stephen Merchant) can actually talk, he arrives at his destination to find no sign of elves. Collapsing in the snow, he’s rescued by an elderly man (Toby Jones) and a young girl who turn out to be elves and teach him how to see Elfhelm. However, it’s no longer a place of joy. Something terrible has happened and its is now ruled by the newly elected leader, Mother Vodal (Sally Hawkins), who has banned singing, dancing, and all forms of merriment and cancelled Christmas after a young elf child was kidnapped by a group of humans.
What follows is fairly predictable, as is the connection Nikolas has to the elf kingdom, as he teams up with a truth pixie, defeats a troll, brings the joy back, puts the elves to work making toys and takes off on a sled pulled by a flying Blitzen with a bagful which, with the help of the king, he delivers to the kiddies back home (dropping down through the chimneys, of course).
Unlike many Christmas tales, this twangs the heartstrings but has a very unsentimental, matter of fact approach to grief, death, the way people can be cruel to each other and how parents can disappoint their children, summed up by Aunt Ruth, who never tells a lie, as “the only thing you live with in life is the Truth, but it can be painful”. Not a classic in the making perhaps, but it has oodles of charm, a worthy message and the warm glow of chestnuts roasting by an open fire.
106 minutes

Netflix


Cartoon of boss baby with dollarsThe Boss Baby 2 (PG)

Set some years after the inspired original with its concept of newborns being despatched from an organisation known as Baby Corp, Tim (James Marsden) and his erstwhile BC exec younger brother Ted (a snarky Alec Baldwin) have grown up and apart, the former a stay at home dad married (to breadwinner Eva Longoria) and raising two daughters, the latter a billionaire hedge-fund businessman with no memory of his Boss Baby years. Tim is worried that his eldest, Tabitha (Ariana Greenblatt), a bright schoolgirl with a goldfish named Dr. Hawking, is starting to pull away from him, but he has bigger concerns on discovering that her infant sister, Tina (Amy Sedaris) can talk and that she’s a Boss Baby from Baby Corp. Her mission is to bring the two brothers back together to infiltrate Tabitha’s school where the administrator, Dr. Armstrong (Jeff Goldblum) is seeking to turn all the children into high-achieving geniuses as part of his devious plan for, yes, world domination, to remove all parents. As such, Tim and Ted must drink the magic milk that will revert them to their child states and attempt to discover exactly what Armstrong is up to.
The countdown to save the world and the sibling bonding themes are staple plot devices, and, other than a message about not making children grow up too soon, the film’s pedestrian narrative doesn’t do much new with them, happy instead to serve up a hyperactive string of brightly coloured slapstick sequences and 1980s pop-culture throwaways, although scenes of the boyhood Tim, calling himself Marcus Lightspeed, befriending his insecure daughter are quite touching. 107 minutes.
In cinemas


 

cartoon characters in Ron goes Wrong

Ron’s Gone Wrong (PG)

Another animation about the importance of friendship, Barney Pudowski (Jack Dylan Grazer) is a friendless seventh-grade schoolboy embarrassed that his Bulgarian gran (Olivia Colman) gives him chicken feet in his lunch box, is bullied over his rock collecting hobby and wishes he had a B*Bot like all the other kids. A B*Bot is a new capsule-shaped high-tech invention from the Bubble company, a Best Friend Straight Out Of The Box, programmed to like what you like and to find others of a similar mind to build a friendship network.
Arriving at the factory too late to buy one, his oblivious widowed dad (El Helms) an inventor of naff contraptions no one wants to buy, acquires one that literally fell off the back of a lorry. Unfortunately, the glowing white toy with its ever detachable arms and on the fritz expressions, which he names Ron (Zach Galifianakis), is defective, lacking some its programming (he calls Barney Absalom because his name list doesn’t go beyond A), such as the algorithm to stop him harming humans, which, as it turns out, is quite fortunate in giving the bullies a taste of their own medicine.
As such, in the ET-like bonding between the two, the screenplay touches on some important theme of being isolated from your peers and of the need for friendship, but overlays this with some rather clunky plot tangents such as teenagers’ obsession with technology and social media rather than real friendships as well as, rather inevitably, corporate villainy as, unlike his well-meaning geeky partner Mark, who invented them, the company’s child-hating co-founder, Andrew (Rob Delaney), intends to use the B*Bots to harvest consumer data from their owners so they can sell more. The fact Ron is operating offline, and is affecting the other bots’ programming, threatens the stock price and, therefore, he must be destroyed.
Despite some obvious comparisons to Big Hero 6, Short Circuit, The Iron Giant and How To Train Your Dragon, it’s an amiable affair with several affecting scenes, such as Barney training him to learn about him so they can have fun, a friendship ultimately earned rather than engineered, and a scene where the two hideouts in the woods, while there’s an obligatory toilet gag as a girl obsessed with social media followers finds the downside of going viral when an image of her emerging from the bottom of a rogue B*Bot assemblage earns her the name PoopGirl. No classic, but your software would be malfunctioning if you didn’t enjoy it. 106 minutes.
In cinemas


Daniel Craig as James BondNo Time To Die (12A)

Daniel Craig bows out as 007 in a blaze of glory as the 25th (and longest) official James Bond movie hits the screens. Scripted by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Phoebe Waller-Bridge and masterfully directed by Cary Fukunaga, it has several nods to the past franchise outings, most obviously being bookended with Louis Armstrong’s All The Time In The World which was, of course, the theme to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, George Lazenby’s only outing in the role and, pointedly, the film in which Bond found love and married.
He’s in love again here, this time with enigmatic psychiatrist Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux, magnetic), previously seen in Spectre, having retired from active service for domestic bliss, though events following his visit to the tomb of Vesper Lynd to finally get closure quickly see such hopes dashed. Madeleine, announced in the previous film as the daughter of former Quantum member Mr White, is given a prologue back story here when, seeking revenge for her father murdering his family, the masked and facially scarred Lyutsifer Safin (a coolly chilling Rami Malek) arrives at their snowbound Norwegian home, kills her mother but ends up rescuing her from a frozen lake when she attempts to escape. Suffice to say, back in in Italy and after a stupendous car chase and town square shoot out involving his tooled-up Aston Martin, Bond assumes he’s been betrayed again, puts her on a train walks away.
Cut to five years later and a murderous raid on a secret MI6 laboratory sees Obruchev (David Dencik), a Russian scientist, supposedly kidnapped along with his data on something called Project Heracles, a bioweapon containing nanobots that allow to target specific DNA strands that M (Ralph Fiennes) has been running as a clandestine operation. Anyone infected with the virus then kills anyone they touch who shares that DNA. Now living in Port Antonio, Jamaica, Bond is contacted by his best buddy, CIA agent Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) who, along with his all smiles colleague Logan Ash (Billy Magnusson), want him to help tracking down Obruchev to which, after a visit by Nomi (Lashana Lynch) his female black replacement as 007, and learning about Heracles, he eventually agrees. And so begins a complex and convoluted storyline that entails Bond linking up with Paloma (Ana de Armas), a feisty Cuba-based CIA agent, the mass killing of all SPECTRE agents, at a gathering remotely hosted by the organisation’s imprisoned head, Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), using Obruchev’s weapon, a deadly betrayal, a tense reunion with Swann, a face to face with Blofeld, and the discovery that Safin, who has the usual Bond villain world domination ambitions, is behind everything. That and the fact that Madeleine has kept more than one secret from him; a cute 5-year-old called Mathilde (Lisa-Dorah Sonnet).
With integral appearances by Craig-era regulars Ben Wishaw as Q and Naomi Harris as Moneypenny, the film never feels its near three hour running time as twists and turns, and just who has been infected and by whom keep you involved and on your toes as, via yet another thrilling car chase, it builds to an explosive climax on an old World War II island base between Japan and Russia, where Safin has a lavish Japanese poison garden.
Not only do Fukunaga and the writers outdo the previous Bonds in terms of visual spectacular and edge of the seat action, peppered with the trademark dry one liners and quips, they also offer a romantic, tender and sensitive side to Bond hitherto never fully seen or explored, something that Craig translates to the screen with compelling intensity and moving pathos, his final moments likely to leave you, sorry, shaken and stirred.
163 minutes.
In cinemas


kung fu actor throwing hoopsShang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings (12A)

Shang-Chi is a minor Marvel Comics character first seen in the 70s and subsequently a member of The Avengers. Now, he’s the latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe , the film serving as both origin story and launch platform for an ongoing franchise.
It begins with a scene setting prelude set in 1996, narrated and spoken in subtitled Mandarin, as, having subjugated pretty much everywhere else with the use of his magical ten rings, thousand-year-old warlord Wenwu (Tony Leung) sets out to conquer the hidden mystical realm of Ta Lo, a village said to harbour creatures from Chinese mythology. He’s defeated by its protector Ying Li (Fala Chen), the two falling love as they battle, she eventually leaving her home and he renouncing his Ten Rings crime organisation to become parents of two children, Shang-Chi (Jayden Zhang/Arnold Sun) and Xialing (Elodie Fong) and all is hearts and flowers until, as we learn in subsequent flashbacks, old rivals murder Li, plunging Wenwu back into his old ways, training his son in the martial arts to serve as an instrument of vengeance.
Cut to the present and the now grown Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), calling himself Shaun, is working as a parking valet alongside best friend Katy (Awkwafina) who knows nothing of his past, until that is, he’s attacked on a bus by a bunch of assassins, led by self-descriptively named Romanian Razor Fist (Florian Munteanu), who wants to steal the jade necklace his mother gave him. It transpires they’re part of his dad’s army who wants the pendant and that belonging to his now grown daughter (impressive newcomer Meng’er Zhang) in order to return to Ta Lo where he believes his wife is imprisoned inside a mountain from where she has been calling to him.
All of which entails reluctant hero Shang-Chi and Katy heading to Macao, him reuniting with his sister who runs a fight club and isn’t initially best pleased to see him as he left her behind when he fled his father at 15, and the three of them setting off to mom’s village (meeting up with their aunt, Michelle Yeoh, and Katy getting trained as an archer) to warn them of Wenwu’s intentions, learning that, in fact, what’s imprisoned inside the mountain is actually a demonic soul sucker monster.
This all proceeds at a cracking pace with numerous dynamic martial arts fight sequences, ranging from the initial balletic one between Wenwu and Li, the exhilarating crosstown bus battle with Katy behind the wheel, the siblings’ showdown, and the all-out climax between the Ta Lo warriors and the Ten Rings soldiers as they, and our intrepid trio, take on the freed soul-sucking monsters with the help of assorted mythological beasts, including a huge m dragon. And, of course, the ultimate confrontation between father and son with the fate of the world and the ten rings in the balance
It’s a breathless, thrilling set of action sequences, so it’s somewhat unfortunate it was felt necessary to insert a frankly very silly comedic relief section in which a cheerfully hamming Ben Kingsley revives his Iron Man 3 role as Liverpudlian actor Trevor Slattery who was hired to impersonate The Mandarin and, post-prison, is a reformed character and offers to guide them to Ta Lo with the help of his companion Morris, a kind of furry winged cushion, who is from there, want to return home and knows the secret route in.
A martial arts trained stuntman, Liu makes for a solid conflicted action hero in the Marvel tradition, while Leong’s soulful performance successfully captures the ambivalence of his character, both cruelly ruthless in his actions but sympathetic in his overwhelming grief at loss of the wife and family he’s looking to restore, but perhaps inevitably, it’s Awkwafina who steals much of the film even though she’s playing a second string role. Naturally there’s several connections to the wider MCU, from a reference to Thanos wiping out half of the world’s population in The Avengers to a mid-film cameo by Benedict Wong as Doctor Strange’s assistant, returning in the first of the end credit scenes alongside Bri Larson (Captain Marvel) and Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner) that deepens the mystery of the ten rings, the second setting up the sequel as the cool and steely female-empowerment advocate Xialing resurrects her father’s organisation, this time with female warriors.
132 minutes
Disney +


cartoon of the Addams FamilyThe Addams Family 2 (PG)

A follow-up to 2019’s animation reboot, this follows a familiar teen-angst narrative with Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) questioning who she is and her fit within her family as well as a staple road trip plot to afford family bonding time. Opening with Wednesday presenting her project at the school science fair, she dazzles everyone with her experiment in which she is able to transfer her pet octopus’s personality and intelligence into the body of her Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll), but is understandably put out when everyone is declared the competition winner.
She does, however, seriously impress high flier scientist Cyrus Strange (Bill Hader), who invites her to come and work with him at his lab, sharing the secret to her formula about combining animal and human traits. Naturally, she refuses, but the whole experience only serves to exacerbate her feeling of being an outsider, her mother, the cooly regal Morticia (Charlize Theron), unable to lighten her gathering melancholy.
Which prompts her father, Gomez (Oscar Isaac), to suggest they all (pet lion Kitty included) take off in their creaky oversized camper van for a three-week cross country trip visiting such suitably Addams-friendly spots as Salem, Sleepy Hollow and Death Valley. As they’re about to set off, however, they’re accosted by an attorney who claims that, in fact, Wednesday is not their daughter at all, but was switched at birth in a hospital mix-up (cue flashback of Fester juggling babies) and he wants to return her to her real family.
This provides a series of episodic stopovers and accompanying events as, pursued by the lawyer and his hulking henchman, Fester, who’s developed a curious desire to be in water and whose one arm has turned into a tentacle, takes the van, driven by Thing (the disembodied hand), on a detour to Niagara Falls where Wednesday uses her voodoo rag doll to take control of brother Pugsley (Javon Walton), making him do a hip hop dance routine in front of some girls he’s trying to impress, before (as part of her ongoing attempts at his demise) sending him flying into falls.
Moving on to the Grand Canyon (which Pugsley demolishes with his explosives obsession), Wednesday administers a DNA test that confirms her suspicions and, accompanied by family butler Lurch (Conrad Vernon), sneaks off to find her real father who, wouldn’t you know it, is apparently Strange, who, it turns out, as a very bird-like wife and a porcine daughter.
Largely focused around Wednesday and her mordant wit, the film gleefully digs into the dark and creepy elements of the original comic strip while peppering it with assorted pop culture references (Gomez declares Billie Eilish a little too sunny for his taste) and, during a detour at a Little Miss Jalapeño Pepper contest in Texas, Wednesday, forced into sporting a big blonde wig for a song routine, a knowing nod to the prom scene in Carrie. And, since this is essentially a film for kids, a series of poo jokes before a fabulous mutant monsters showdown between a giant Festerpus and a very Strangegryphon.
There’s also a fabulous scene as, she and Lurch find themselves at a biker’s road bar where, told to show them what his hands can do, Lurch takes to the piano for a falsetto rendition of I Will Survive that has everyone on the dance floor. All that plus Grandma Addams (Bette Midler) turning the mansion into a nightclub while the folks are away and a guest appearance by hairy behatted Cousin It (Snoop Dogg), now a rap superstar with his own private jet! A family Halloween treat with a family hug and be who you are message wrapped up in the candies. 93 mins

In cinemas

cartoon characters from Extinct

Extinct (U)

Flummels are ring-doughnut shaped creatures with a hole in their middle and who travel like rolling tyres, they live on one of the Galápagos Islands where brother and sister Op (Rachel Bloom) and Ed (Adam Devine) are the tribe’s misfits, she always creating a mess and he a grumpy pessimist who longs to fit in. However, vain flummels leader Jepson (Henry Winkler) and bossy assistant Mali (Alex Borstein) aren’t about to let that happen, Ed being consigned to be friend at the end, a straggler in the upcoming 10th annual flower festival procession. But even that’s denied him when they inadvertently cause a friendly whale to swamp the beach, Op and Ed being consigned to sit the festival out on desolation rock.
Looking to find a way to redeem themselves, Op leads Ed up the far side of the mountain to the forbidden zone in search of some extra special blooms and, falling into a glowing flower, find themselves magically transported to present day Shanghai. Here, lost and confused, they’re helped by Clarence (Ken Jeong), a small white Pomeranian that belonged to a now missing scientist who discovered seeds that enabled him to travel in time and visit historic events. He reveals the dreadful truth that, shortly after they left, a volcanic explosion wiped out all flummels, but says that, through Dr Chung’s (Benedict Wong) time terminal he can help them travel back and save their species.
Unfortunately, another Op and Ed accident throws Clarence into a random portal (where he becomes one of explorer Edward Shackleton’s sled dogs) along with the 1835 seed, leaving them at a loss at what to do. At which point they meet The Extinctables (an in-joke nod to Stallone’s The Expendables), a group of extinct creatures, dodo Dottie (Zazie Beetz), Tasmanian tiger Burnie (Jim Jefferies), Macrauchenia Alma (Catherine O’Hara) and Hoss (Reggie Watts), a baby Triceratops, rescued by Chung, who now live in the time terminal library. They offer to help Op and Ed visit various times to try and find Clarence, eventually recovering the seed that will save the flummels. However, an argument sees Op returning on her own and, at this point, there’s an unexpected twist where Clarence’s motives turn out to be something entirely different to what first appeared.
With a plot that involves time travel loops that Doctor Who might find complicated and the introduction of such characters as a cyclops, the captain of The Beagle (Nick Frost) and his passenger Charles Darwin (Tom Hollander) on its 1917 voyage of discovery, as well as offering snippets of historical information, this is directed by David Silverman who made The Simpsons and written by three of The Simpsons scriptwriters. As such, while aimed at youngsters and borrowing from films like Ice Age, there’s also plenty of sly – and at times risqué – humour for the adults too (I laughed out loud when – in a cannibal-joke – Op bit into an actual doughnut and splattered a horrified Ed with jam), plus of course it comes with an upstanding message about courage, being true to yourself and the power of friendship and all the characters have very definite personalities. An unexpected delight. 84 mins

Sky Cinema


 

 

man and woman on river boat in film The Jungle

Jungle Cruise (12A)

It used to be that the film spawned the theme park ride, but these days it’s more often the other way round. This, set in 1917, is the seventh to be based on a Disney theme park attraction, although older audiences will recognise it’s also heavily influenced by the Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn 1951 classic The African Queen, their roles here played by Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt.
She’s Lily Houghton, a trousers-wearing British botanist who’s determined to find a legendary ancient tree, hidden somewhere in the depths of the Amazon, the petals of which, the Tears Of The Moon, will heal any illness. Wearing the same sort of hat as Bogart, he is Frank Wolff, the cynical skipper of a ramshackle riverboat who, in hock to the local Italian businessman (Paul Giamatti), runs cruises up and down the Amazon, given to making dreadful puns and something of an opportunistic con artist staging assorted ‘perils’ for his gullible Western tourists.
Lily having stolen a mystical arrowhead which, along with an old map, she believes will lead her to the tree, heads for Brazil along with her impractical foppish brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) where, after assorted antics (including a staged attack by Frank’s tame jaguar), she ends up hiring him to skipper them on their mission. She calls him Skippy, he calls her Pants. However, she’s not the only one after the petal and, as they travel up the Amazon, they’re pursued by Prince Joachim (an accent mangling Jesse Plemons) in his submarine, who wants to use its powers to help the German army win the war.
It should, at this point, be mentioned that there’s also a curse attached to the legend, dating back to the 16th century when, led by Aguirre (Edgar Ramírez), a bunch of Spanish Conquistadors came in search of the petals, massacred the natives who protected the tree and ended up being forever trapped by the jungle, their zombie selves being liberated and teaming up with Joachim.
Shamelessly pilfering from not only The African Queen, but also Romancing The Stone, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Mummy and Pirates of the Caribbean, it could have profitably have been trimmed by 15 minutes (ditching some baggage as Frank does with MacGregors’), but you can’t say director Jaume Collet-Serra’s doesn’t give value for the price of admission, what with telepathic bees, snakes, rapids, plunging waterfalls, running over collapsing structures, swinging from ropes, dart blowing natives, headhunters, explosions and much more. And along the way, there’s the inevitable burgeoning romance between Lily and Frank (he has a secret, so let’s just say it’s probably good if she prefers older men) as well as a sensitively handled scene where MacGregor (Whitehall rising above his initial comic relief role) confesses to Frank that his affections are not directed at women.
Blunt and Johnson play off each other well, though it’s fair to say she scores the most points, and both throw themselves into the film’s physical demands with great gusto, and, at the end of the day, it’s all a good-hearted rollercoaster ride through old fashioned Saturday matinee adventure escapism and none the worse for that. 127 mins
Disney+


 

cartoon cave men

The Croods: A New Age (PG)

A belated sequel to the 2013 animation about a stone-age family, following a quick reminder, this picks up shortly after the original with overprotective dad Grug (Nicolas Cage) still not happy with the idea that teenage daughter Eep (Emma Stone) has struck up a romantic relationship with more evolved outsider, Guy (Ryan Reynolds). Here, though, we learn more about him in an opening sequence in which his late parents send him off in search of his tomorrow before they’re drowned in tar. Giving Eep an eternity rock, they plan to set off on their own path and way from the smelly sleep pile, until, as they, Grug and the rest of the family, wife Ugga (Catherine Keener), numbskull son Thunk (Clark Duke), Gran (Cloris Leachman) and feral five-year-old Sandy are out foraging with their giant pet sabretooth, Chunky, in search of a new home after their cave was destroyed, come across a walled day-glo Eden stuffed with watermelons, berries and all manner of food.
This, it turns out, is the home of The Bettermans, Phil (Peter Dinklage) and Hope (Leslie Mann) and their daughter Dawn (Kelly Marie Trann), an advanced new agey flip-flops-wearing family who’ve invented nicer pale blue clothes, agriculture, irrigation, showers, lifts, indoor plumbing (cue toilet gag) and live in a set of a luxury tree apartments. They, it transpired, knew Guy as a child and it was here that his parents were sending him. Now, socioeconomic snobs, they want to pair Dawn off with Guy and be red of the Croods as soon as possible, all under the guise of being friendly and doing it for their new guests’ best interests of a bright future beyond the garden.
Meanwhile, Eep and Dawn bond and take off on Chunk on the latter’s first adventure beyond the walls, proudly scoring her first scar, Thunk has become a prehistoric app social media zombie watching the world through his ‘window’ and Phil has a manipulative man to man chat with Grug in his man cave sauna, persuading him to agree to them taking Guy off his hands. The climax hinges on Grug defying Phil’s sole rule and eating all the bananas which, turns out to be a bad thing, since they are in fact the only thing keeping the Bettermans’ paradise safe from a tribe of quick to learn punch monkeys and, in turn, a giant mandrill-like answer to King Kong.
Naturally, all this builds up to messages about family, parenting, acceptance, living in harmony and, as, led by Gran, a warrior in her day, the women come to the rescue as the Thunder Sisters, a big dose of female empowerment. There are some great sight gags, such as Guy poring over a scrapbook of old family cave drawings as well as big action sequences like the Croods battling the predatory kangadillos as they race through a canyon all set against an often surreal and psychedelic looking landscape inhabited with things like land sharks and Wolf-Spiders. The voice work is excellent, Cage, Stone and Dinklage taking the honours, the banter witty, satirical, knowing and peppered with in jokes. If you are of a mind, you can even read into it a political message about a divided America, but probably best to just be a kid, ride the prehistoric rollercoaster and enjoy the silliness. And the peanut toe. 95 mins

Amazon Prime


 

 

 

 

Not all 12A films are appropriate for younger children. Let’s Go With The Children offers a guide to what’s suitable for family viewing.

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